Aerial view of the Imja glacier and Lake Imja, Nepal, the Himalayas. The lake appeared in the 1960s and has grown continuously ever since. The sinking of the surface of the debris-covered glacier tongue is also clearly discernible. Picture: J. Kargel, University of Arizona.
The large glacial lake Imja Thso in the Imja Valley south of Mt. Everest/Nepal formed in the 1960s and has grown continuously ever since. 3D view generated from an ASTER satellite image. Picture: T. Bolch, Universität Zürich/TU Dresden
For the regions in the northwestern Himalayas and especially in the Karakoram Range, the researchers noted very heterogeneous behaviour in the glaciers. Many of them are dynamically unstable and prone to rapid advances (so called “surges”) that largely occur independently of the climatic conditions. For the last decade on average, even a slight volume increase was detected. Based on their analyses, the researchers assume that glacier shrinkage will not have a major impact on the water drainage of large rivers like the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra in the coming decades.Greater variability and menacing flooding of glacial lakes
Bolch and his colleagues also see a very serious threat to the local population in newly formed or rapidly growing glacial lakes. The deluge of water and debris from potential outbursts of these lakes could have devastating consequences for low-lying regions. According to the scientists, increased efforts are urgently needed to monitor the lakes as well as changes in the glaciers and the climate in the Himalayas.
The study was conducted as part of the EU project High Noon and the European Space Agency project Glaciers_cci.Literature:
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